Ever since I first saw the trailer for Spike Jonze's film adaptation of the much-loved children's book 'Where The Wild Things Are,' by Maurice Sendak I was awestruck and had nothing but high hopes for the movie. And it's finally here- and I'm here to tell you that it absolutely
lives up to the hype. So I'll get right into the details...
'Where The Wild Things Are' was directed by Spike Jonze (Adaptation, Being John Malkovich) and was written by Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers. Max Records stars as the film's young protagonist, and is joined by Lauren Ambrose, Chris Cooper, James Gandolfini, Catherine O'Hara, Forest Whitaker, and Paul Dano as the voices of the Wild Things.
The film's story loosely follows that of the 9-sentence book. Through about ten minutes of exposition we learn that Max is a pretty lonely kid without any real friends. And to make things worse, his mother barely notices him and his father (for reasons unknown) is out of the picture. After a bad experience with some of his sister's inconsiderate friends, Max decides he's had enough. That night during dinner, Max disobeys his mother and bites her in a fit of rage. He does what all of us had done at some point in our childhood- he runs away. He runs until he hits a dense forest, which leads him to a small boat docked at the edge of the sea. Max sails away and finds an island inhabited by strange creatures and quickly becomes their leader. That's only the beginning, but I'll leave the rest for you to experience yourself.
I can't even begin to imagine how disastrous this film could have been if the actor chosen to play Max wasn't as talented as he was. Most of the story takes place between Max and the Wild Things, and Max Records does a wonderful job portraying a kid who's very lonely and relies on his imagination and storytelling abilities to entertain and dislodge himself from reality. The voice actors all do a wonderful job. When I first heard the monsters start talking, I'll admit I was really worried that the recognizable voices of the cast would annoy me- but the voices all suit the characters very well and they're all beautifully complex and wonderfully heartfelt.
I could write an entire blog on the monsters alone. They're a big part of what makes this film so wonderful. Each Wild Thing has their own mental complex, their own feelings, and their own way in which they view the world around them. Carol is the one we spend the most time with. He's a mirror image of Max- his friends have abandoned him, and he can go from being calm to angry at the drop of a hat. It's Carol that Max takes the biggest liking to, mostly due to the fact that Max sees himself in Carol's personality...and they understand each other. I think anybody who sees this will be able to recognize at least one person they know who's exactly like one of these characters. They're all seemingly complex and wonderfully developed.
The visuals are an ENORMOUS plus in this film. It's hands down the most beautiful film to look at I've seen this year. The locales are varied and colorful, complementing the Wild Things to a wondrous effect. The Wild Things themselves have garnered some criticism in reviews, but the technology used to create them looked great to me. They were created using a mix of physical suits and CGI for the faces. In motion, the Wild Things look stunning and you really feel their emotions thanks to the high quality animation. I really dug the design and look of the film, and it sustains you throughout the entire ride.
Now comes the part where I have to disagree with the Spill Crew. They all agreed that the movie was hollow/devoid of any real emotion. But I'm going to have to disagree wholeheartedly. This was one of the most emotional films in recent memory. Not only is it a heartfelt character study, it's a throwback to my childhood. It absolutely caters to what it feels like to be a child- the thrills, the desires, the fears, the fun, the craziness, but most of all- the imagination. 'Where The Wild Things Are' is brimming with feeling and sorrow. The Crew did mention that this is more of a film for adults to reminisce about their childhood and less of a kids film. Why, then, did they find it to be hollow? Watching this made me feel like a kid again, and it brought back a lot of memories from way back when. I'm not ashamed to admit that I was crying for most of this film. Some of it was due to the sad scenes, while some of it was due to the sheer beauty
of this world and these characters. It's not hollow- it's deep, beautiful, funny, and very moving.
One of the most unanimously noted criticism's of the film was it's plot. And to some degree, they're correct. The movie doesn't have a lot going on. It's an extremely simple story. The storyline meanders around on the island, but I found this to work in a great way. We watch as Max commands his kingdom as king, starting dirtball fights, leading wild rumpuses, and building graniose fortresses. I had a wonderful time just spending a while with Max and his friends, and I found the resolution of the movie to work perfectly. The last shot of the film sums everything up really well, and it's downright beautiful.
Another complaint was that this isn't really a kid's film. Well, it isn't. I can't honestly say that I can picture kids getting more out of this than I did. It is really more of a reflection on what it's like to be a kid, and how you view your surroundings when you're little. But I think anybody who has a big imagination will love this.
So in closing, I'll say this. Go see this film and give it a chance. It made me feel like a kid again in the best way possible, and I think if you go into it with an open mind and a big imagination, you're going to have a great experience. It's poignant. It's beautiful. The characters are all human and all display complex emotions. It's a tragic, moving story, but you'll leave the theater feeling like you've just been to a truly magical place. There's been a lot of speculation as to the film's overall moral or message. Love and friendship are two very prominent things here. To me, I saw the film as a testament to how love can be both a blessing and destructive at times. Friendship is one of the simplest and most effectively wonderful ways that we interact with people around us, but sometimes our feelings can get in the way. 'Where The Wild Things Are' delicately achieves what so few modern films accomplish- it reminds us that sometimes we need to take a step back, let go of our hateful feelings, and love those around us no matter what the case may be.